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Alternative Transportation and Travel Information Technologies: Monitoring Parking Lot Conditions Over Three Summer Seasons at Acadia National Park

John J. Daigle, Carol A. Zimmerman

Abstract


Parking lots are an important transportation resource of Acadia National Park, as they provide visitors convenient access to some of the most desirable destinations within the park. However, during the summer, parking at some of the most popular destinations is in short supply. Drivers often park vehicles outside designated parking spaces within the lots and along the side of roads leading up to the lots. The result is damage to the natural environment as well as aesthetic and visitor safety problems.

In 2002, as part of the Acadia National Park Field Operational Test, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) components were deployed to enhance an alternative transportation system called the Island Explorer Bus and to facilitate visitor travel around Mount Desert Island and in Acadia National Park. The ITS technologies at Acadia were used to address the parking problem by collecting real-time data on whether two of the most popular lots, Sand Beach and Jordan Pond, were full. That information, in turn, was made available to visitors by means of signs placed at two Acadia National Park campgrounds and the Visitor Center.

The evaluation sought to determine whether the information led to a reduction in the parking of vehicles outside designated spaces at Sand Beach and Jordan Pond. It also assessed whether ITS helped to distribute the demand for parking more evenly among other parking lots. Data for the evaluation were collected through direct field observation of parking patterns at eight parking areas in Acadia National Park that were served by the Island Explorer buses. Using a multi-stage cluster sampling design, observations were made in the morning and afternoon at each parking lot for a total of 86 days over three summer seasons. Years 2000 and 2001 represented baseline conditions, and 2002 represented the post-deployment phase of ITS.

No significant differences were detected between the mean number of vehicles counted as exceeding the capacity of the two parking lots and year (F = 1.85; p = .179), but the decline from a mean of 215 vehicles in 2001 to 180 vehicles in 2002 suggests a trend in the desired direction. The magnitude of change for the Sand Beach and Jordan Pond House parking areas as compared to the other six parking areas studied may in part be related to the real-time parking information available for these two areas and not the other six areas. Based on other data including a visitor survey and ridership statistics, there appears to be a relation between the travel information technologies, use of the Island Explorer bus, and the changes observed in parking conditions at these two areas. However, results from this study suggest that ITS cannot be relied upon solely to significantly reduce parking problems at Acadia National Park and that additional indirect and direct management strategies may be needed to reduce parking problems.


Keywords


Travel information technologies, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), park management, transportation planning, parking, visitor use patterns

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